Rival gangs clashed inside a notorious prison in the Mexican state of Durango on Wednesday, leaving at least 23 inmates dead, officials said.
Mexican Federal Police stand guard outside the penitentiary in Durango, northwest Mexico, after a riot between two gangs flared up on January 20. (AFP Photo)
Army and federal troops as well as police were sent in to quell fighting between gangs which broke out shortly after breakfast at the jail housing 1,800 inmates, well over capacity, outside the city of Durango.
It took 40 minutes for the security officers to quell the clashes, reportedly between members of the rival Gulf and Sinaloa drug cartels using makeshift weapons but no firearms.
The prison was surrounded by army troops and police, as dozens of relatives of the prisoners gathered outside the facility anxiously waiting for news of their loved ones.
"We have confirmed that 23 people died in the fighting," a spokesman for the prosecutor's office told AFP.
Twenty inmates were injured and most were treated at the prison, the official added.
He refused to be drawn on what caused the brawl but the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels have been waging a months-long turf war for control of the smuggling routes into the United States.
Back in August, when 20 inmates were killed and 25 injured in similar clashes at the same penitentiary, Durango public security official Jorge Torres described the prison as a "time-bomb" waiting to explode.
Durango and its neighboring states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua make up a region of Mexico dubbed "The Golden Triangle" because of the amount of marijuana, opium and heroin production conducted there.
In October 2008, 21 inmates were killed in a prison riot in northeastern Tamaulipas state. One month earlier, 19 were killed, including two Americans, in a prison uprising police put down with gunfire in the northern border state of Tijuana.